With spring only a few calendar flips away, adding good soil to my garden beds is creeping up my priority list. Nurturing the soil where my daylilies, roses, and daisies grow will ensure a beautiful season for me and a bountiful buffet for the butterflies, bees, and birds they attract.
Garden stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot offer a variety of soils to be used whether it’s vegetable or flower gardens. But it is up to the gardener to know which product will work best. Soil for vegetables doesn’t contain the same nutrients as soil specifically for flowers. Nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium levels must be matched to the needs of the plant. Soil that is enriched with high levels of nitrogen is great for growing tomatoes, but roses? Not so much.
A Christian’s growth and healthy lifestyle also depend on the spiritual soil in which they are planted. While there’s no chemical ratio for our needs, the Bible offers insights into how we can cultivate this good spiritual soil, which will promote spiritual growth.
Jesus teaches in Mark 4:1-20 about the types of soil He encountered while discussing the Kingdom of God. A beaten path is a hardened heart. Seeds of teaching were cast on it, but they were easily stolen away—and likely not missed when they were gone.
Shallow soil is a heart that has soil available to sow seeds, but the rocks (problems, persecution, or other stumbling blocks to growth) soon choke out the Good News.
With thorny soil, the seeds take root, sprout, and grow. But as they grow into plants, the thorny bushes around them (or worry, woundings, desires of the flesh, etc.) stifle the new growth, and it produces no fruit.
Good soil is a tender heart that receives Jesus’s message with joy, takes it inside, and tends to it so the seeds of His message produce a bountiful harvest!
Do you recognize any of these soils in your faith walk? How can you nourish your spiritual soil to help grow your faith?
Three essentials enzymes for good spiritual soil.
Solid Biblical Teaching
Whether you attend in person, watch live online, or listen to podcasts, it’s important to know that the pastor and church believe and practice the Christian faith foundations. While there are many options these days, from traditional denominations to contemporary non-denominational churches and even denominations with contemporary services, the first thing to do is review their statement of core beliefs on their website. This information will tell you what will likely be preached from the pulpit or stage.
Do the church and its staff believe Jesus came as a baby, lived a sinless life, then took humanity’s sins upon Him and was crucified, died, and buried? Do they believe He rose to life after three days and ascended into Heaven with God the Father? That’s foundational. Any church or congregation that does not believe and teach this truth should be avoided.
Do the church and its staff believe we are saved by grace alone and that faith in Jesus is the only way we can be saved? Or do they believe your works or deeds (i.e. being a good person) will punch your ticket into Heaven? Hint: you can’t just be good. Accepting Jesus’s salvation and turning from sin is the only avenue leading to Heaven.
Does the church believe that the Holy Spirit is our comforter, guide, and companion while we’re here on Earth and that the Bible is the infallible Word of God?
If you can answer yes to these questions, then you’re most likely to hear solid biblical teaching. But it never hurts to ask around. Do you know anyone who attends the church or listens to the pastor’s sermons? What do they say about the teaching? Have they grown in their faith walk as they’ve attended?
Regular church attendance is a good start for building a nurturing spiritual soil; however, good soil does not come from attending church once a week. We take vitamins daily because they are depleted on a daily basis. The same goes for our faith. We must nurture it daily by spending time in the Word. Whether it is meditating on Scripture, joining Bible studies, or reading devotions, it is important to add these nutrients to actively feed our spiritual growth.
The second essential enzyme is community. “Fellowship” is a church word that simply means spending time with other believers. Friendships and church buddies are a good start, but to nurture the spiritual soil, it’s good to have women who are older or further along in their faith journeys to walk with you. These women can be a sounding board when weeds and thorns pop up in your soil and threaten your growth. They will provide perspective from their own lives and confirmation of God’s faithfulness.
Church retreats can be another pleasant addition to your spiritual soil. They combine not only good teaching and an avenue for fellowship, but the retreat also can help to get away from your regular life for a few days to connect deeper to God without the daily distractions.
Social media might allow you to enrich your spiritual soil, but it’s a nutrient that is best in small, carefully monitored doses. It’s easy to get caught up in online bickering, and no mind is ever changed by arguing on Facebook. But when you are connected to believers who will pray for you, share articles and memes that build faith, and in general do life with you online, that is a good nutrient for your soil.
Guarding the Heart and Mind
The last enzyme might be too much “in your business” as Pastor Michael Todd would say, but it is an important part of cultivating good spiritual soil. It is guarding your heart and mind. What are you watching on TV? What are you listening to on the radio? What are you reading? Anything that is seen or read can alter the brain’s structure and the more the same things are seen or read, the stronger that neural pathway becomes.
My mother used to tell me to think about the songs I would sing along with on the radio, listen to their lyrics, and then ask myself if I would sing those to God. I would roll my eyes, squelch the clench of what I now know was conviction, and continue belting out songs about cheating hearts, lost loves, and devastated dreams. As I grew, I realized there was wisdom in her advice. Unfaithful spouses, indiscriminate encounters, and partying with drugs and alcohol seem to pervade secular music creating unhealthy soil for spiritual growth.
But, what’s the alternative? Christian music is so cheesy. Well, it was. It’s come a long way from eighties and nineties’ story songs filled with well-meant condemnation and sugary sweet four-part harmonies. Don’t believe me? Tune your Spotify to play Lauren Daigle, Zach Williams, and For King and Country, and then let me know your thoughts.
Unfortunately, the Christian movies and TV shows still need help with the cheese factor—I get it. But there are ways to limit exposure to sex, violence, drugs, and explicit language. One is switching back and forth between Hallmark Channel, HGTV, and Food Network. Another is adding a new service to your streaming TV that deletes those scenes or language but still allows you to see a majority of the show. There are a few that can’t be helped much (looking at you Bridgerton and Game of Thrones), but at least it’s a start.
As for reading material, there’s no rating system available for books, but Goodreads provides guidance. If you haven’t heard of it, Goodreads is a book review website that offers a plethora of reviews, most of which are very extensive, to help readers decide if a book might be interesting to them. Otherwise, you can choose based upon the topic. I personally avoid vampires and witches no matter how they are packaged. Then there are also book covers, which you can use to judge a book. If there’s a scantily dressed woman clutched in the arms of a bare-chested man, the chances are high that won’t be a book that will help cultivate good spiritual soil and a healthy lifestyle.
A healthy body is created and maintained through healthy eating and exercise. A healthy spiritual lifestyle must also contain nourishing activities, starting with good spiritual soil. You know the old saying: garbage in/garbage out? It’s become such a well-used saying because it contains truth. What you put in yourself is what will eventually come out. Start with good, rich spiritual soil first and watch a good, rich bounty of blessings come later.
The apostle Paul said it best in Philippians 4:8-9 “Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy—dwell on these things. Do what you have learned and received and heard from me, and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you” (CSB).
Felicia Ferguson is an award-winning fiction and non-fiction writer with a vision. “My mission is to help women be the best versions of themselves by learning and applying biblical principles in their lives.” She grew up on a Kentucky horse and cattle farm but lives in the Florida panhandle. Both locations inspire her writing. She has a master’s degrees in Healthcare Administration and Speech-Language Pathology. Felicia has dreamed of authoring books that teach and encourage others. Felicia is the president of the Destin chapter of Word Weavers International, a Christian writers’ critique group. You can learn more at www.feliciafergusonauthor.com or follow her @Felicia_writes on Pinterest and Instagram.